Recess is a regularly scheduled period in the school day for physical activity and play that is monitored by trained staff or volunteers.1,2 During recess, students are encouraged to be physically active and engaged with their peers in activities of their choice, at all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th grade.1,3

Recess benefits students by:1,4-7

  • Increasing their level of physical activity.
  • Improving their memory, attention, and concentration.
  • Helping them stay on-task in the classroom.
  • Reducing disruptive behavior in the classroom.
  • Improving their social and emotional development (e.g., learning how to share and negotiate).
Recess Data and Policy

Keep Recess in Schools pdf icon[PDF – 337 KB]—This data brief defines recess, provides a snapshot of current recess practices in the United States, and highlights ways to improve recess through national guidance and practical strategies and resources. This was developed by Springboard to Active Schools in collaboration with CDC.

Recess Strategies

CDC and SHAPE Americaexternal icon developed the following documents:

Recess Strategies
Strategies for Recess in Schools pdf icon[PDF – 7 MB]—Evidence-based strategies for planning and providing recess in schools to increase physical activity participation and improve academic achievement (e.g., performance, behavior, attention).
Recess Planning
Recess Planning in Schools pdf icon[PDF – 5 MB]—Helps schools put the Strategies for Recess in Schools into practice when developing a written school recess plan.
Recess Planning Template word icon[DOCX -97KB]—Provides a customizable template for schools to use when developing their school recess plan.
Physical Activity During School: Providing Recess to All Students ppt icon[PPT – 6 MB] pdf icon[PDF – 3.4 MB]—explains the benefit and importance of recess and CDC andSHAPE America’s new resources for recess.
Resources for Recess in Schools Promotion Kit pdf icon[PDF – 675KB]—Promote the resources for recess to your partners and constituents.
  1. Institute of Medicine. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2013. Available at: icon.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Guide for Developing Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2013.
  3. SHAPE America. Guide for Recess Policy. Reston, VA: SHAPE America; 2016.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2010.
  5. Michael SL, Merlo C, Basch C, Wentzel K, Wechsler H. Critical connections: health and academics. J School Health. 2015;85(11):740–758.
  6. Fortson J, James-Burdumy S, Bleeker M, et al. Impact and Implementation Findings from an Experimental Evaluation of Playworks: Effects on School Climate, Academic Learning, Student Social Skills and Behavior. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; 2013.